to syllabus

Study Questions on R. G. Suny, The Structure of Soviet History:  Essays and Documents (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2003).  Week XI, pp.  162-164, 198-209, 251-263, 266, 273-285, 315-325.


Suny's intro, pp. 162-164

What does Suny see as the main characteristics of the period of "High Stalinism" (1945-1953)? 


Dunham, "The Big Deal" (pp. 198-209).

Does D think that after 1945 Stalin ruled by "savagery" alone?  Explain.  What does she mean by the "Big Deal" and who does she refer to as the Soviet "middle class"?

According to D, how did WWII change the composition of the Party?  And how had the war and its aftermath created (or widened divisions in Soviet society?  In other words, what was the "postwar challenge" that faced the Stalin leadership?

How did Stalin respond to the twin problems of preventing dissent and building (restoring) popular support for the regime?

According to D, with who did the Stalin regime establish a "concordat" in the post-war era, and why?  What were the "goals" of this "Big Deal"? 

In other words, why did the regime have to rely on the talents and work of the new "middle class," why did Stalin consider this group (more or less) "trustworthy," and what would the "middle class" get in return for rebuilding the country?

Did the regime offer the benefits of the "Big Deal" to workers and peasants, or even to the intelligentsia?  What point is D making about the "class nature" of the post-war Soviet elites?  Again, what did the regime want from the new "middle class," and what did the new "middle class" want from the regime?

What did the "Big Deal" have to do with systems of public values and how did these (new) values differ from the stated values of the revolution?  Did the regime simply drop the language and ideology of the revolution, with its emphasis upon the working class and collectivism? 

How did the regime "adapt" so as to validate "private values" that mattered to the "middle class"?

Why does D think that the Russian term "meshchanstvo" applies to the values that she is discussing better than does the generic English term "middle class"?

According to D, what characterized the cultural antagonism between the meshchantsvo and the intelligentsia?  And what does this have to do with the distinction between "kultura" and "kulturnost"?

For D, how does understanding the idea of kulturnost help us understand the way that the Stalin regime "used" the "Big Deal"?


Conference of Musicians,  January 1948 (pp. 251-260)

What were main points made by Zhdanov in his criticism of Muradeli's opera?  How might we fit these criticisms into the framework of Dunham's essay and of our earlier discussion of Stalinist art?  (Remember that Zhdanov was a Party official--a Politburo member--and not a musician [or even a critic].)

If you were a member of the audience at the conference of musicians and heard Zhdanov's opening comments, what might be your (silent) reaction, and why?

What do you see as Shaporin's main point in his response to Zhdanov?

What do you see as the main point of Muradeli's speech, and how would you explain his seemingly blind support for Zhdanov's position?

The great Shostakovich made a very enigmatic speech at this conference--what do you see as his main point?

In his long closing statements, who was Zhdanov really blaming for the "big problems" facing Soviet music?  Do you hear the language of "denouncing hidden internal enemies" in his statements?  Explain.

What about Zhdanov's final speech can help us understand the "party line" of Late Stalinism/High Stalinism (look at Suny again!)?


Report to Stalin on Dissolving Jewish Writers Associations, 8 Feb. 1949 (pp. 260-262)

In his intro to these documents, Suny explains that the Stalin leadership began targeting Jewish organizations and activists for repression after WWII.  In this 1949 report, what official reasons were given to justify the repression of Jewish writers' organizations and of individual writers?

How can we fit these two documents (the report and the Central Committee decision of 8 Feb. 1948) into the context of our readings on how Stalinist nationality policy changed (beginning in the mid-1930s, but in particular during and after WWII)?

Is there anything else that strikes you as historically interesting about these documents?


Suny Intro, p. 266

According to Suny, what was the basic division among historians over interpretation of the origins of the Cold War?

What does Suny see as the major "milestones" in the origins of the Cold War?


David Holloway, from Stalin and the Bomb (pp. 273-285)

Holloway begins by explaining Stalin's Feb. 1946 foreign policy speech--according to H., what was Stalin's argument in this speech? 

What was Stalin's view of the possibility of prolonged peace after 1945?  Explain.  In other words, in early 1946 did Stalin think that a major war was imminent?  Explain.  What did this have to do with "the Bomb"?

According to US and British policy makers in 1945-1946, how had the US use of "the Bomb" effected the USSR?  And how, according to Holloway, had the Bomb actually effected Stalin's view of the balance of power?

Following on the previous question--what is Holloway's point about the difference between the military strategic impact and the "symbolic" impact of the US possession of atomic weapons in 1945-46?

From what Holloway tells us, did the Truman administration try to use the symbolic power of the Bomb as a "weapon" in negotiations with Stalin?  Explain.

According to H, as of November 1945, what were the aims of Soviet nuclear policy?  Explain.

How does H describe and explain Truman's attitude toward to USSR as of early 1946?  One of the key documents to understanding the origins of the Cold War are Kennan's "Long Telegram"--what view of Soviet aims did it give?

H says that Feb.-March 1946 were a "turning point in United States policy toward the Soviet Union."  Why, and what part did the "bomb" play in this?

According to H, what 3 policy choices did Stalin have re. post-war diplomacy?  Which of these did Stalin follow, and why?  Was his decision to follow this policy the result of US possession of "the Bomb"?  Explain.

Does Hollow think that Stalin wanted war with the US?  Explain.

The September 1946 Novikov memorandum was the Soviet equivalent to Kennan's Long Telegram; what does Novikov's memo tell us about Soviet perceptions of US policy aims?

According to H, was "the Bomb" a factor shaping Novikov's analysis?

What is Holloway's thesis?


Conversations between Stalin and Mao, December 1949-January 1950 (pp. 315-325)

What do these conversations tell you about Stalin's views on the likelihood and desirability of war between the USSR and the "imperialists"?

Does Stalin seem to you (based upon these conversations) to be someone who is "losing his grip," or does he seem more or less well informed and lucid?  Explain.

Based upon these conversations, does Stalin seem to feel that his "hands were tied" by the wartime "Big Three" agreements (made at Yalta and Potsdam)?

In the USA, policy makers (and the public) were convinced in 1949-1950 that the Chinese Communist movement was controlled by Moscow and represented the Asian "arm" of a coordinated international Communist movement.  (The conception continued to prevail in US policy circles into the early 1960s.)  Based upon these two conversations, was the "western" believe that Mao was doing Stalin's bidding justified?  Explain.  For instance, do you see any evidence of tensions between Mao and Stalin (e.g., over the status of Port Arthur, over who will control railroads in Manchuria, or over Soviet loans for Chinese industrial development)?